Thursday, August 9, 2012

Krakow, Poland

The bus was supposed to arrive in Krakow at 2:30 a.m. Around 1:30 a.m. the bus stopped in the side of the highway. We asked if we were in Krakow. The drivers didn't speak English and said nodded yes. We were 11 kilometers south of the town. It was freezing, so Tom gave me all of his dirty clothes to put on, and we started walking. After two kilometers of walking, Tom flagged down a cab that happened to be passing by. Saved.

Prague, Czech Republic

Took the train from Budapest to Prague.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Zagreb, Croatia

Old City, botanical gardens, and broccoli nuggets from McDonalds.

Budapest, Hungary

I thought we could take an overnight train from 9:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. from Zagreb to Budapest. I primarily thought this because it was posted on the train service's website. We were quite surprised when we arrived at the Zagreb train station and learned there was only the 4:00 p.m. train. We then did a whirlwind tour of Zagreb in four hours and boarded the non air conditioned train to Budapest.

When we arrived in Budapest around 10:00 p.m., we were a bit hard-pressed to find a room, since we didn't think we'd be arriving in Budapest until a day later and didn't reserve anything. After stopping in three different hotels/hostels, one hostel let us use their computers to look for a room online. We used Hotwire and booked a surprise hotel for $77. It ended up being the Intercontinental right along the Danube, so we lived fancy for one night.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Rented a scooter.

Bari, Italy

We flew into Bari and took a ferry to Croatia. We had pizza for three straight meals.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Vintage Shopping in Malasana

After visiting the Rastro on Sunday (see earlier post), I decided to explore more of Madrid's vintage clothing scene.  I did some light research on the inter-webs and noted that Malasana was the district to check out for vintage shopping.

On the walk to the Malasana, I passed through Gran Via where hundreds of protestors had gathered for a march to speak out against austerity measures/budget cuts.   I assume this because their signs had an image of a pair of scissors with an X through it.

Calle de Velarde is the main street for vintage shopping in the Malasana.  There are four or five shops on this block.  

A vintage store on Calle de Velarde aptly named Williamsburg with an image of the Williamsburg Bridge in the logo. They were playing Nina Simone, and I bought a silk scarf there for 4 euro.

This Dooney and Bourke handbag was priced at 30 euro but easily could have been sold at a flea market in NYC for the equivalent of 100 euro.

The interior of Magpie Vintage where I bought a red turban for 5 euro. They had an impressive collection of jean cutoffs...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Madrid's Famed Flea Market

Today we headed to the La Latina district for the Rastro, Madrid's Sunday Flea Market. On the outset, it seems like any generic street fair with t shirts and cheap handbags, but when you move past the tourist area into the real flea market, you find a plaza with 30 or so booths with piles of discarded, used clothing. The venders are all yelling out to draw shoppers to their mounds of mostly heinous clothing. Pretty much every item goes for a euro. It is mostly locals pouring through the piles of over washed Zara discards, stained dress shirts, and polyester high rise trousers. You could even purchase a used Flemenco dress.

I loved it. I scored a black poly-nylon blend sleeveless with black lace over the front and an over sized black with Victorian floral pattern dress shirt (the brand was "Grandma".) I paid a euro for each.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Roman Holiday

On Sunday, we woke up to head to the airport to catch the flight back to Madrid. I look at the email ticket and see that we have a six hour layover in Rome. We run around the airport figuring out the best transportation options to get us to the city center and where to stow our luggage while we explore Rome.

Within the three hours that we are in the city center, we managed to see the Circus Maximus, the Coliseum, the Pantheon (We saw the Parthenon the previous day in Athens.), the Trevi Fountains, the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (the big white building with columns), the Rome Terminal, and countless other wanderings through photographic streets. We didn’t make it to the Vatican though… It was a bit farther over, and I don’t want to get involved in a Da Vinci Code-style scandal.

At the beginning of the day, I had no idea that I would be running around exploring Rome and then ending the night in Madrid.

Just a random street we wandered down

Tom at the Trevi Fountains.  The last time we were both in Rome was the summer of 2006 during the World Cup.  We might have been in Rome at the same time before we knew each other.

The Pantheon.  The girl in the white shirt and dark shorts to the left is about to do some really cheesy poses on the big balls on the ground.  We cringed as she did some weird tourist poses. 

Big Fat Greek Wedding

My manpanion’s college friend was married this past weekend in Kifissia, just outside of Athens. We arrived at 1:00 a.m. on a Thursday night, and after learning the taxis were 70 Euro, we determined to only take public transportation. The subways shut down after midnight, but a kind man at the information desk explained the bus system to us. For just 1 Euro each, we were able to take the public bus. Huge savings.

In the morning, we did some Athens exploration – visited the markets and the Parthenon area. Note I said “Parthenon area” and not the actual Parthenon. Alas, in the blazing heat, we opted to explore fruit stands over timeless cultural relics. That afternoon, we headed to Kifissia and lounged by the pool with friends for a few hours.

Tom leading the way into the meat and fish market in Athens.  After a few seconds of the strong stench, we left and headed to the fruit and vegetable market.  
Definitely the coolest stop in the Athens market

The invite said the pre-wedding night party would start at 8:00 p.m. We were rushing around to get there by 9:00 p.m. Alas, only our group of Americans arrived that early. We sat around drinking water while the staff set up for the party. People started arriving around 10:30 p.m. I headed out around 2:00 a.m., but the others were out until 6:00 a.m.

The day of the wedding, we lounged by the pool and did some leisurely walks into town. Around 7:00, we boarded the bus for the bride’s family’s vacation house, the location of the wedding. There just happened to be a small chapel a 6 minute walk from her family’s house. It was a great location for a ceremony with the mountains in the background. Maybe 150 people were there for the outdoor Greek Orthodox ceremony. Afterwards, we walked to the dinner and reception. There were far more people at the dinner and reception than at the ceremony. The tables were set up as far as you could see and the dance floor was packed. Maybe 300-400 people in attendance. As if the large dinner with two types of fish, pork, and beef was not enough, they brought out another meal around 3:00 a.m., which was amazing. Pasta and chicken wraps for late night drinking food. We left around 5:00 a.m., and there were still about 100 people dancing. We left around 5:00 a.m., and there were still about 100 people dancing.

Adam and Nadia walking around the table three times as we all throw rice at them.   I first learned of the Greek Orthodox table walking tradition through an episode of Full House... The one where Uncle Jesse's childhood friend comes to town and it turns out they were once married, so Rebecca has them get divorced.  (Season 4, Episode 1)

The view from the dance floor.  Hundreds of place settings extend as far as the eye can see, and there are still another 20-30 tables behind the dance floor.

San Fermin (Running of the Bulls) in Pamplona, Spain - Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Yesterday at 1:00 a.m. Emerson and I took a five hour bus to Pamplona to arrive there a little after 6:00 a.m., so that we could participate in the annual Running of the Bulls ("San Fermin").  We scouted out the course, and we'd done some research and numerous youtube viewings to understand the dangerous corners and risks of the course.  We took our places around 7:30 a.m. and waited to hear the rockets announcing the bulls' release.  They release about 6 bulls onto the 850 m course.  We started out farther along the course because we wanted to be ahead of Dead Man's Corner - the 90 degree turn where the bulls slam into the wall and skid along the course taking out a few people.  We only had about 200 m to run (Nick, I'm getting better at metric!!).  

Emerson and Noshia (who we met while lining up) waiting for the rockets to signal the start of the run.
While waiting for the run to start, spectators start to fill up the balconies above to watch the bulls.

Those bulls are fast, and they caught up to us in no time.  I always maintained a human shield about 2-3 people deep, so that I wouldn't be the first person the bulls would knock out, but to see them charging down the narrow cobblestone passageway just a few feet away from you was awe-inspiring.  At the end of the course, you go through a short tunnel to get into the arena, and I wasn't expecting to have 20,000 people in the stands cheering and chanting.  It was an unreal experience to run into the arena with the thousand other runners.  The ridiculousness doesn't stop at the end of the run though.

Definitely wasn't expecting to walk into an arena like this to hear 20,000 spectators cheering!

Once the bulls are in, they release another rocket signaling the end of the run, and everyone cheers.  But they released it too soon, and as all of the runners are on the floor of the arena cheering and taking pictures and finding friends and what not, another bull comes charging in, and we flee to the sides of the arena while the matadors lead the last stray bull to the holding area.  Then, they release one bull at a time and 80% of 600 or so people who made it into the arena try to stay away from the bull, while the other 20% runs up and taunts and teases the bull to get him to charge. They're idiots and most likely drunk. The bull will flip and knock over these people. After 10 minutes of taunting, the bull is tired and led back to the holding area. Then another bull is released, and the taunting repeats itself until all of the bulls have been cycled through. This takes about an hour.

We didn't take any pictures along the run. Because it is forbidden and because I was focusing on staying alive, but here is a video from a scene in the arena. The clip below is just 20 seconds or so, but it's just a sliver of what goes on for the whole hour. It's a good thing we didn't do it today because I read that 6 people were trampled in the Thursday run. It was an awesome once-in-a-lifetime experience.